Wednesday, 30 November 2016
Administration of South Australia’s Prisons
Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. T.J. Stephens:
- That a select committee of the Legislative Council be established to inquire into the government’s administration of South Australia’s Prisons with particular reference to—
(a) the costs and impacts (upon prison officers, prisoners and the South Australian community) of the combined prison system operating continually above approved capacity;
(b) the government’s forecasted prison capacity in relation to its forecasted prisoner population;
(c) the correlation, if any, between prison overcrowding and the breakdown in proper administration of prisons;
(d) the following incidents which occurred between July and October 2016:
(i) a prisoner given leave to attend a funeral but was prevented from re-entering the Yatala Labour Prison at the appointed time;
(ii) a prisoner convicted of murder and rape was allowed to umpire an amateur football match;
(iii) two prisoners were able to tunnel under a prison fence and gain access to a prohibited area at Port Augusta Prison, then start a truck with the intention of driving it through a perimeter fence and, when noticed, held officers at bay within the prohibited area for four hours;
(iv) a prisoner has died and three prison officers hospitalised following a violent altercation at Yatala Labour Prison;
(v) a prisoner convicted of murder disappeared from a Corrections supervisor;
(vi) the recent seven-hour siege at Port Augusta Prison; and
(e) any other relevant matter.
- That standing order No. 389 be so far suspended as to enable the chairperson of the committee to have a deliberative vote only.
- That this council permits the select committee to authorise the disclosure or publication, as it sees fit, of any evidence or documents presented to the committee prior to such evidence being presented to the council.
- That standing order No. 396 be suspended to enable strangers to be admitted when the select committee is examining witnesses unless the committee otherwise resolves, but they shall be excluded when the committee is deliberating.
(Continued from 2 November 2016.)
The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: I appreciate that I am not on the official speakers list, but I simply want to add a few brief comments to indicate Dignity for Disability’s support for the establishment of this committee. I do not intend to go over the many reasons why that is the case—other members have done that quite eloquently and quite sufficiently—but I would go as far as to say that I think the fact that a government minister, who has oversight of the very system that will be looked at by this committee, is standing up and supporting the establishment of a committee to oversee these issues, these problems, is indeed indicative of the size of the issue.
I very much look forward to this issue getting the attention it deserves and the parliament handing down some recommendations that will, I hope, make a very real and very lasting practical difference to the treatment of prisoners in this state. I also note, however, that the federal parliament committee inquiry into the indefinite detention of people with cognitive and psychiatric impairment in Australia has, just today actually, handed down its report. Amongst other things, it shows us, unsurprisingly to me unfortunately, that there are far too many people in prison with a diagnosis of a disability or condition and that access to the justice system, including courts and police, remains very limited to many people with disabilities.
The report recommends that each state and territory follows South Australia’s lead—indeed, Dignity for Disability’s lead—in establishing their own disability justice plans. It also recommends some further changes to the Communication Partner Service to ensure that we have the proper support in place to allow people to communicate in courts and in prisons. As I understand it, it recommends the expansion of the Community Visitor Scheme to enable the community visitor to visit prisons to make recommendations about the treatment of prisoners with health conditions and disabilities.
Of course, there are many recommendations, thankfully. I have not yet had the chance to read them all, but I certainly look forward to their being implemented in the state also, where applicable, and I hope that there may be some scope for this committee to look into these issues as well because they are vitally important. There are many people with disabilities currently in our prisons who I believe do not need to be there and who could be out of prison, as the minister says, contributing to their community either through work or community participation with the right social and physical supports around them, and, as a happy coincidence, save the state a lot of money in doing so.
I will continue to work through those recommendations. The report has only come out today but, as I have said, I hope that there will be some scope for this committee to consider these vitally important issues. With those words, I lend Dignity for Disability’s very strong support to the motion.